Code Realize ~Guardian of Rebirth~ Episode 6: What Did They Do To Nemo?

Review:

Well, this is kind of Impey’s episode, but unsurprisingly he’s pretty boring as a character so instead of really delving into who he is (other than a dreamer who wants to go to the moon) we’ll spend the episode preparing for and then participating in an air-race with a stolen airship. This will go well, I’m sure.

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In case you are wondering, this episode is pretty much entirely skippable save for the after credits reveal which I won’t say anything about, where they finally seem to want to actually advance the main plot line.

So unless you have some burning desire to see Nemo cackling away for some completely unknown reason…

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I’d ask what this is supposed to be but I’m afraid someone might answer.

Anyway, this show has a bad habit of having characters saying what I’m thinking and Van get’s the prize for that this week.

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All and all, not much to see here.


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Princess Principal Series Review: These Spies Are Cute and Deadly

Overview:

Five girls attend a prestigious school in the Kingdom of Albion (a Kingdom split in half by a wall). However, these girls are actually spies using their specific skills to complete their jobs.

Review:

Princess Principal is going to be a hard show to review really. Mostly because I loved the experience of watching it and had a lot of fun, but that doesn’t mean that it didn’t have its faults. The problem being, the longer you think about this show the more those faults become apparent. Still, there’s a lot to enjoy in this steampunkesque spy series.

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Firstly, the characters are fantastic. They all seem pretty standard at first and their designs are excessively moe (to the point where I wasn’t actually planning on watching this show at all because one look at the character designs made me roll my eyes). But each of the five girls is given time and attention and back story over the course of the first half of the series and by the time we get back to seeing them operating as a full unit I had really fallen in love with these characters and their relationships. For all the holes I’m going to poke in the plot of this story later, I am not going to throw rocks at this main cast. They are a great team and a lot of fun to spend time with.

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Obviously Ange and the Princess get the lion’s share of development, and that’s fine because I love both of those characters. Ange’s stoic nature and her quirky references to the Black Lizard Planet just make her an enigma that you want to figure out. She’s cold as ice when needed, illustrated clearly in the first episode where she shoots a traitor, but behind the scenes she’s definitely got a softer side. Again, seen when she made sure said traitor had insurance so that his daughter would receive medical attention. The Princess begins much as you would expect a Princess playing spy to act, but as the story progresses you see there is so much more to her than the external character she has perfected playing. These two were such a delight and when you throw in Chise, Beatrice and Dorothy this becomes one of my favourite teams in an anime I’ve seen in a long time.

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Secondly, the music. Loved the opening theme to this show. It is incredibly energetic and fun. Visually it works and it does give some sense of the characters, but mostly it sets a tone for the show that it mostly lives up to even if the events aren’t quite as loud and vibrant as the opening might have you believe. Still, this is an opening I didn’t skip even once and actually went back and listened to after episodes just because it was fun to hear.

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Thirdly, the setting. Okay, steampunk Victorian era is kind of done to death but I really appreciated the setting here. For the most part technology is within the realm of plausible with only one or two contraptions that seem fantastical. Mostly, it could actually be just historical (with the usual inaccuracies) and not steampunk at all but there’s enough going on that you kind of have to put it in steampunk category. Be that as it may, the world these girls live in is rich and dynamic. It isn’t a setting that they’ve been dropped onto. There are so many different groups and factions all with their own goals and motives. Even just the random workers they encounter are all crafted to feel like real people with their own story to tell. The setting is pretty fantastic.

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Alright, so now we have to address the issue with the plot. To start with, the show is broken into cases that are shown to the audience in a non-chronological order. This means we meet the characters in the order the show wants us to and learn the information we need about the characters when we need to, but it means there is no real drive toward any kind of final goal. Each case has its own goal and mostly the case is irrelevant. What is important are the characters, how they interact, and what they learn from the experience. As a character piece, Princess Principal is superb but it comes at the expense of plot. There’s no real buy in from the audience as to whether it matters is the team succeed of not in many of these missions as we are never really clued in as to what the missions are trying to accomplish. While that isn’t such an issue early in the series, it is what leads us to a fairly ordinary ending.

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The one plot thread we do follow most of the way through the story is Project Changeling which was a plan to have Ange kill and replace the Princess. Somewhere along the line that plan included having the Princess become part of the team, though where that left Changeling was never really determined. Then, in what seems like a desperate effort to push us into a climax when there was no real overall end goal, suddenly the guy in charge of the spies is replaced and the new guy orders Ange to kill Princess. The final two episodes follow this drama to its conclusion.

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However, the wall is still there, the Princess still isn’t Queen, the old spymaster is back, the girls are for some reason in Casablanca and still carrying out missions, so the question has to be asked whether from a plot point of view this show accomplished anything? Certainly the characters have come along way and it was really fun watching them do that, but it kind of felt like the story wanted to be more than just about the power of friendship (although that may just be my own wishful thinking). Mostly, this could be resolved by giving us a second season and actually addressing the set up that this show has now that the girls have dealt with their issues and become a team.

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I recommend checking this show out. It may not be for you but there is a lot of fun to be had here. It manages to balance its cute moments with some far darker tones and for the most part gets the balance right.

If you’ve seen Princess Principal I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.


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Code Realize Episode 5: Fran Get’s His Angsty Back Story

Review:

Something I will never ever understand is why so many writers feel that every character needs a tragedy in their back story. Some people could just have normal lives until the event that is occurring in the story. They don’t all need to have overcome multiple tragedies prior to the story in order to be interesting.

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So having safely established that Van has a dark and angsty back story and now that he’s helping Cardia he is slowly healing even while harbouring towering resentment, this week we get treated to Fran’s dark past as an alchemist for the state. I’m kind of indifferent to his history during the Vampire wars but I did like that Cardia was proactive during most of this episode. She follows Fran, engages in an actual conversation with him, and at the end lays many of his fears to rest. It is almost as though she has thrown off blank slate protagonist mode and become a real character. Almost. She’s still a little dull but at least she is taking an active role here.

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Still, four soldiers being unable to shoot fleeing targets in a straight alley, no matter how bad the guns were back then, is just a little pathetic. Again with incompetent trained soldiers or at least having to really suspend any kind of logical thought. The alley isn’t that wide so even if they can’t shoot straight you would think four of them would manage to hit something.

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I wonder what they will get up to next now that the whole train issue is resolved and swept under the rug.


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Sengoku Night Blood Episode 5: Why Have Vampires and Werewolves If You Don’t Do Anything With Them?

Review:

As much as I still enjoyed this episode as a very laid back kind of historical-harem thing there were definitely some issues this week. The most pressing being why even bother with the premise of alternate reality with vampires and werewolves involved in the warring states if other than pointy or furry ears you don’t do anything with that concept? Seriously, after five episodes we’ve had one vampire bite and a few leering at blood but essentially this is a non-story element. It almost only seems to exist because someone pointed out in a planning meeting that there was nothing original about the show and so someone said… “Vampires.”

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The other issue that is kind of killing my enjoyment is that narration is starting to become reminiscent of Knights’ & Magic in that the narrator tells us who is fighting in the battle and who is allied with who and then at the end of the episode tells us how the battle was resolved. If the story was so weak that we didn’t know who had become allies (which to be honest it was) then this line or two of narration doesn’t make the following fight any clearer as to who is fighting and why. And then it is like they realised the episode was coming to an end and they hadn’t wrapped things up so the narrator does a voice over and fight done.

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To be honest, neither of these really stop this from being light entertainment but they do stop it from actually being good. We’ll see where they decide to go next and whether this can rise above being fairly forgettable fluff.


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Code Realize ~Guardian of Rebirth~ Episode 4: Just a Few Holes in the Plan

Review:

While this show is obviously not trying to be a super spy thriller  (quite obviously so), this episode still made me raise my eyebrows more often than I would like as I struggled to ignore lapses in logic that were just trying to throw me out of what was an otherwise enjoyable romp (even if not a realistic one). But before I get to that, basically we finally see the attempted train job where they want to abduct Finis and it goes about as well as you would expect such a plan to go this early in a series.

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The actual train job itself is fun to watch but you really can’t spend too much time thinking or it all kind of falls apart. Firstly, what is with the plans they are looking at in the mansion? Basically it is the drawing of the outside of a train carriage. It isn’t a map of the tracks, nor a detailed view of the carriage interior. There aren’t even enough carriages for them to be mapping out who is going to be where. Yet all the characters gather around and stare at it as they discuss their plans like it has any kind of significance.

Secondly, what did Cardia think her role was? She seemed totally surprised when Lupin passed her the explosive and told her to take care of the decoupling. Given she served no other purpose in the plan up to that point, what exactly did she think she was accomplishing other than escorting Lupin? Admittedly, they could have made that work if Lupin had given her the explosives after being confronted by the hilariously named Herlock Sholmes and Lupin was improvising but he gave her the explosive and the explanation before that as though it had always been his plan. If Lupin had always planned it, why wasn’t Cardia in on it? Seems weird to suddenly thrust that on her mid-job.

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There’s a couple of other bits and pieces but the biggest one is the flying contraption thing that originally carries Lupin with Impey flying and Lupin comments on its shakiness to which Impey points out it is only designed to carry one. Then at the end we have Impey flying, Lupin hanging from a ladder carrying Cardia in his arms and Van holding onto the end of the ladder and yet no issues flying away from the air ship. Um… If it was shaking with two and you add an additional two common sense would suggest the thing shouldn’t still be in the air.

None of this really stops the episode being fun because we get to see all the characters in action and Cardia actually doesn’t repeat anything back to anyone this episode as a question so has come a long way in the last three episodes. It is good fun, just not logical.


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Code Realize ~Guardian of Rebirth~ Episode 3: Well I Guess We Had To Expect Vampires

Review:

It didn’t really click last week given the nature of this show but I guess when you introduce Van Helsing into your mix of characters, having vampires actually be real and show up in the story just makes sense. And then making Cardia see herself as the lonely monster reflected by the orphan vampire boy… Well, it all makes sense even if it does lead to a little bit of eye rolling.

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They are also working to make Van seem like a tragic character given he has so little other personality at the moment. When all else fails, kill off his entire family after forcing him to kill innocent vampires. That will really hit the audience empathy button.

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In fairness, it worked pretty well and by the final scene where Van is training Cardia for the upcoming mission against Twilight, you kind of do have a bit of sympathy for Van and his cause. What did bother me was that they set up this episode by planning to attack a train and the whole vampire story was just a training exercise for Cardia so it made this feel like filler while we delayed getting to the actual story. This story felt like it deserved better than to be squeezed in as training filler.


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Sengoku Night Blood Episode 3: Sake, Herbs, Bees and an Attack

Review:

If the goal here is to walk through a loosely based on actual history historical setting where the cast have been replaced by pretty boy vampires and werewolves than this episode accomplishes its goal wonderfully. If there was an intention of actually helping us learn anything about these characters (other than the name of the person they are supposed to be) or to progress some sort of plot than this episode comes up short.

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That isn’t to say this isn’t still kind of fun. The vampire group meet with the werewolf group and drink sake before a contrived fetch quest sends the girl into the woods to look for herbs where she conveniently and for no apparent purpose steps on a bee hive. Seriously, they do nothing with that other than scene transition. Why even include it?

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We do however see that every single guy is going to fall for the girl regardless of her seeming lack of personality. So yes, plenty to criticise, but this still works from a switch your brain off and enjoy the pretty visuals kind of  perspective and there is still the possibility of the plot going somewhere as they do have a few scenes that indicate more is going on than drinking and flirting.


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Katsugeki Touken Ranbu Series Review: Why Details Are Important

Overview:

Some group want to change history and the characters we follow want to stop them. And the characters we follow happen to be the spirit of swords brought to life by a sage from the future who can sense time distortions.

Review:

I kind of covered a lot of my issues with this show in my feature a few weeks ago where I asked what went wrong with Katsugeki Touken Ranbu?

I stand by that question now that the series has ended. Because, it seems like this show has what it needs to be truly great and yet what we have instead is a shallow dive into a story the audience never actually gets to experience and characters who really don’t progress beyond a name, a fighting style, and a single note personality. It is telling that after 13 episodes of this I’m still not actually sure of all the character names and had to resort to looking them up and even then when looking at a character list it took me a moment to remember what some of the characters had even done in the show.

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Part of this is definitely because this is a game adaptation and there is certainly some expectation from the anime that viewers are at least passingly familiar with these characters already. But I haven’t played the game and even if I had, source material does not excuse sloppy characterisation (or none as the case may be) in the anime. The same might be true for the lack of plot development but again, even if the answers can be found elsewhere, that doesn’t make watching the anime any better.

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Basically what is lacking from this anime are the details. We don’t know anything about any of the characters other than these two (Horikawa and Kanesada) used to work together serving the same master who died. That’s the one character plot that is developed and kind of resolved by the last episode. Still, given neither one of those characters has any personality beyond loyal to their master and mopey as they question their purpose, it isn’t exactly a draw to the show nor when we finally get the end of this sub-plot does it provide satisfaction. The heroes of this story are trying to stop events from changing so it is more or less obvious what the end of this story will be.

The other characters we get the names of and occasional references to their former lives and masters, but none of this information goes anywhere or leads to anything. It barely connects to the overall plot with the exception Mutsunokami when we meet his former master. And what is the overall plot?

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Well, just in case we forget the swords mention it every other breath. They are going to protect history. They’ll stop history from changing. Why history is being targeted and by whom is something apparently the audience doesn’t need to know. I mean, yes, we are told the Time Retrograde Army are responsible, but who are they? No names, no discernible characters, no motive other than change history. No idea how many there are so basically they just spawn as many as they want in each occasion going so ridiculous as to have 1000 of them show up in the final episode only to do nothing but charge blindly forward and be mowed down by a significantly smaller force that previously struggled with groups of 10 or 20. Minor plot issue but whatever.

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It seems like this anime wanted to focus on Horikawa but didn’t want to leave out the other characters. So instead of getting a focused story revolving around Horikawa growing into his role in the second unit we kind of flit all over the place as we introduce a late addition to the second unit, then the entire first unit, and the we’ll finally get back to Horikawa but by that stage we haven’t really grown attached to him because he practically disappeared mid-season.

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However, this anime looks amazing and the sound is pretty impressive. Even when there is no tension to be found in a battle, if you close your eyes and just listen, it sounds super dramatic. But even mundane sounds like the leaves, the characters walking, gusts of wind, it all just very impressively done. If only even some of that attention to detail had gone into characters or plot (and I don’t mean the overdone character designs, I mean their personalities).

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While this show isn’t by any means unwatchable, there’s just not a lot of point. You won’t learn anything about the overall conflict or what the end game for either side might be. You won’t learn all that much about the characters and what you do learn could have been covered in about two episodes. Visually impressive fight sequences aside, there’s just not enough reason to bother with this show.

If you watched Katsugeki Touken Ranbu, I’d love to know your thoughts so please leave a comment below.


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Drifters Series Review: Was This Worth The Wait?

Overview:

Toyohisa is injured in a battle and as he starts to die finds himself in a mysterious corridor facing a man in a suit reading a newspaper. A door opens and Toyohisa finds himself in a new world where he is called a Drifter. Uniting with other Drifters, they begin to fight, well, everyone.

This obviously came out last year but due to lack of access, it was only very recently I was finally able to watch it (thanks AnimeLab for brining it to Australia). So after reading all the reviews as it aired and series reviews of people who finished it after that, I had a fair idea of what I was getting into. So the questions is, was it worth waiting for?

Review:

Drifters is one of those stories where it could be really cool, but at the moment we’re very much feeling like we’ve read the prologue to a much grander story and we still don’t really know what is going on. The obvious is the confrontation between Drifters and Ends except that the Ends don’t seem to be exactly what we’ve been told and the Drifters aren’t overly concerned with fighting them unless they happen to directly be in the path of what the Drifters are currently trying to do.

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Also, the Drifters aren’t all exactly united. It is clear some have been in the world for a long time and have their own plans and ideas and the three Japanese Drifters that are freeing elves and dwarves and generally going on a mission of conquest are really just out for their own ideals and don’t really seem to care much for the grander scheme (or anyone else’s plans). This makes it really hard to know what the actual end game for this whole story would be particularly as we don’t know the deal with the guy and the girl in the tunnel (other than a clear binary opposition though why we don’t know).

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Despite a lack of answers or real sense of urgency in any of the actions, Drifters manages to be pretty entertaining as we lurch from conflict to conflict. The time periods the various characters come from shape their fighting styles and philosophies and this allows for the action sequences to not get dull. The humour is at times crude but it actually works quite well and adds to the overall entertainment of the show.

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Visually Drifters is interesting. I’m not going to say I particularly like the character designs but it is striking and the characters are distinct and memorable. The art style very much suits the story being told and contributes to the overall tone so it is successful in that respect. Okay, I found it ugly, but that didn’t take away from my overall enjoyment of this series and it definitely stood out from a lot of other shows.

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The opening song is also quite distinct and again the visuals work. They aren’t what I would call pretty, but the opening very much gets you ready for the feel of the show and that is what it is supposed to be doing.

All and all, unless you don’t like the subject matter, which is pretty much various characters thinking of ways to more effectively kill and conquer other characters, with quite a bit of crude humour thrown in, Drifters is quite a nice action anime. I wouldn’t outright recommend it due to the narrative feeling like it barely got started but there is certainly some fun to be had in watching it. Basically, don’t think too hard, enjoy the gore, don’t even begin to try to figure out whether a character is actually supposed to be a good guy or a bad guy because that’s a lost cause.


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Princess Principal Episode 12: Everyone Wants To Go To Casablanca

Review – Some Spoilers:

It is no surprise that Ange returns this episode, though the sheer length of time it takes her to come to that decision and act is a little questionable. Once she’s in motion though it is hard to imagine she was ever going to fail.

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This episode takes us back to the feeling we had back in episode 1. Things are moving along at a good clip with car chases, gun battles, a plot to kill the Queen, and Ange desperate to save her friend. It is good fun even while the show hits some of its darker moments.

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I still feel Zelda’s character would have worked better in this final arc if we’d met her earlier and had a bit more time to care about her character. Instead she comes off as a fairly ordinary villain which makes the reveal about who she is really working for seem a little last minute rather than intriguing. Also, her grand escape sequence would be cooler if I cared about her or if we knew there was going to be a second season for her to return in.

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But what really shines this episode are the main characters as they reunite and save the day before heading off to Casablanca… Wait, didn’t Princess reject that idea? Why did they end up there. Just one of many questions to be asked about the ending of this show given the various groups and plots still exist, the issues in the Kingdom haven’t been resolved, the Princess still isn’t going to become Queen, and I’m not sure the spies actually accomplished anything of significance. How can a show be so fun and yet so full of holes?

Anyway, I will get around to a full series review of this show, but in the meantime, go listen to the theme song again because that can have you smiling for half a day.


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